It was yet another record year for Greek Island holidays last year, the third in a row. Holiday arrivals in Greece jumped 7.1% to hit an all-time high of 23.6 million. Brits were at the head of the queue with a 14.7% rise in visitors to almost 2.4 million. US tourists numbers rose even higher by nearly 27% but the numbers just topped 750,000. A rise in German tourists of 14.3% helped to offset the 59% slump in Russian visitors. Greek holiday arrivals brought in much-needed cash to help Greece's troubled economy, spending an estimated €14.2 billion - up 6% on 2014. Americans were the biggest spenders with a 44.4% rise to €945.6 million but the British were right behind with a 30.5% increase on 2014 to over €2 billion. December 2015 saw a 12.2% surge in tourism revenues, even though tourism arrivals dropped 9.3% on the previous year.
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Independent holiday guides to Greece and the Greek islands. We try to keep our Greek holiday guides up to date but it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards if you spot any errors or omissions.
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As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.
Featured Greek beaches
Argassi beach on Zante
The long, narrow sand and shingle beach at Argassi has very shallow water. This is a popular resort packed with tavernas, music bars and clubs; a big nightlife hotspot with a wide range of holiday accommodation
Barbati beach on Corfu
Barbati beach is a long strand of white shingle with an impressive mountain backdrop. Barbati will appeal to families looking for a quiet traditional beach resort with boat trips, watersports and a relaxed nightlife.
Xanemos sands on Skiathos
Xanemos beach is in a small cove at the end of the Skiathos airport runway. A cantina opens in summer and, as the beach is little visited, it's popular with naturists, although Xanemos is not an official nudist beach.
It's been more than two years in the planning but hopes are high that Greek islands seaplane services will finally get off the ground in 2016. It was in 2014 that Hellenic Seaplanes announced plans to operate up to 100 routes between islands across Greece. Bungling Greek bureaucracy is said to be to blame for the failure to grant waterway licences to anywhere but the island of Corfu despite government pledges to cut through Greek red tape. Now it looks like the Ionian islands will get the first seaplane services as Kefalonia, Paxos, Zante and the nearby mainland port of Patra are poised to pick up licences and Chinese investors jump in with new Dornier Seastar seaplanes. There is still plenty of room for traditional Greek delay however so no one is holding their breath.
Favourite Greek places
Hot springs of Eftalou Lesvos
The hot salt springs at Eftalou, on the north-west tip of Lesvos, reach around 45°C with the waters good for treating rheumatism and arthritis. The renovated bath house has private rooms and a public pool.
Chalki village on Naxos
The Naxos hill village of Chalki has many fine houses, Byzantine churches with murals and several fortified towers. A 19th century distillery is where the 'Citrus of Naxos' liquor is produced - famous throughout Greece.
Found near Mykonos harbour, Paraportiani is five churches rolled into one and built in a sculptural organic whole. Once just a medieval gateway it was finished in the 17th century and gets tourist cameras snapping.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.
Greece slipped into third place in the Blue Flag beach quality awards in 2015, picking up flags for only 395 beaches and nine marinas across Greece and the Greek Islands. It places Greece behind tourism rivals Spain, which topped the awards with 578 beaches, and by Turkey with 436 beaches now flying the Blue Flag. in 2014 Greece and the Greek islands were awarded a total of 408 Blue Flags, 15 more than the 2013 but this was cut dramatically when 38 Greek beaches were stripped of their Blue Flags after failing spot checks by beach inspectors. Most the Greek beaches losing the coveted Blue Flag were on the island of Corfu. Only seven Corfu beaches qualify for flags this year compared to 30 in 2014. More then 4,000 beaches and 650 marinas fly the Blue Flags worldwide.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.